Friday, October 31, 2008

Once Upon a Time Photos: 10.31.08

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. Click here to see the most recent photo on their website. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or

Date(s) run in Baltimore Jewish Times: 10/31/08

PastPerfect Accession #: 1985.159.032

Status: Identified! Sponsors Dinner to dedicate Study Hall at Talmudical Academy of Baltimore in honor of Governor Theodore R. McKeldin at Governor's Mansion in Annapolis, July 8, 1957. L-R: 1. Paul Huddles 2. Robert Stofberg 3.Rabbi Albert Pattaschnick 4.Judge Edgar Silver 5. Albert A. Sugar 6. Mrs. McKeldin 7. Governor McKeldin 8. Mayor Philip Goodman 9. ? Rosenbaum or Alvin Cohen 10. Solomon Rogers 11. Rabbi Hirsch Heiman

Thanks to Babette Goldschmidt, Selma Frank, Stan Heyman, Mark Rosenfield, Phil Shapiro, Jane Kaufman, Jerry Shavrick, Rina Levy, Judge Edgar Silver, Jerry Esterson, Gloria Kolker Hack, Andrew Cohen, Marian Block, Gordon Salganik, Sheila Manson, Marilyn Silverstein, Rabbi Moses Shevalsky, Edna Hendler, Barbara Ravitz, Carl Kupfer, and Robin I. Cushner

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Picture Post

I will wait to speak about the nature of The Void until I have a final (or at least more conclusive) report. However, since we spent significant amount of time in the archaeology pit yesterday, I wanted to go ahead and post pictures.

The crevice that leads into The Void.

Close-up of crevice. Notice that there is 4'+ of water in the bottom of The Void.

Curatorial Assistant Jennifer Vess in the archaeology pit.

Project Manager Lacy LeBlanc in the archaeology pit.

Ceiling and side of The Void.

Brick siding near the top of The Void.

The camera screen that allowed the archaeologists and plumbers to watch the feed from The Void in real time.

Lacy lowering the camera into The Void.

Watching the live feed from the camera.

The pump.

Archaeologist Esther Read widening the hole so that the pump could be lowered into the water.

The pump is in the water.

Almost empty!

The bottom of The Void.

Monday, October 27, 2008

On Friday, John Srygley, Preservation Architect, Esther Read and Peter Middleton, archaeologists, Michael Walkley, P.E., and Charlie Hall and Beth Schminke, representatives from MHT, met to discuss the cistern/void recently discovered under the SE corner of the LSS. Here's what John had to say about the meeting:

"We're not sure at this time what we're looking at, i.e.., a cistern, a dry well, or ?; Esther and Garry [Stone, Architectural Historian] will be sharing their thoughts on this. From the photos the structure appears to be cylindrical, which I measured at 3'-6' in diameter. It is about 8' deep, with four feet of standing water; the walls appear to be dry laid brick. It is unclear how the LSS foundation spans the hole; presumably there is a large stone [lentel]. Note that the photos [see below] are the only visual we have at this time, since the location directly under the foundation does not currently allow enough room to fit one's head down to get a good look!


Note that the cistern may be the principal cause of the settlement and stresses at this corner, but there are several other suspected influences, and the dramatic subsidence in this area is likely a consequence of the compounded influence of several or all factors including (1) the broken sanitary line dating from @ 1900, (2) the 8" sanitary line installed about 1960, (3) that a portion of the south wall rests on fragments of the brick wall of the mikvah house."

Once we have had a chance to investigate the interior of the cistern, we will discuss the best way to proceed with the grout injection that will stabilize the SE corner of the LSS. Since the cistern appears to be dry-laid, there is a fairly good chance that the pressure grouting which had been planned will not be an option in the area around the cistern. The high pressure aspect of pressure grouting could potentially damage the cistern and the surrounding area, and as with every aspect of this project, we will not proceed until the best options have been determined and agreed upon by our various historic and preservation specialists.

The 1" x 6" hole at the bottom of the pit that led to the discovery of the cistern.

The interior of the cistern - at least as much of it as we can currently see.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Of Cisterns and Synagogues

Just when the archaeologists thought they were wrapping up the outside dig, they uncovered a fissure in the bottom of the pit. It is a crack, approximately six inches long by an inch wide, in a layer of granite blocks covering "a void beneath the unit floor," according to archaeologist, Esther Read. Peter Middleton, the project lead, first tried to measure the depth with a six-foot measuring stick, but he was unable to reach the bottom of the hole. After attaching two measuring sticks together, he reached a depth of eight feet and encountered three to four feet of water before hitting a layer of silt. As of yet, the depth and volume have not been determined.

We do, however, have an idea about its purpose. During her first dig onsite (1999 - 2001), Esther speculated that there would be a cistern associated with the original mikveh. Because of the location of the "void," we know that it pre-dates the expansion of the synagogue, which puts it in the correct time frame for Esther's original speculation.

What does that mean for the renovation/restoration process? Well, immediately, it means more meetings. Over the next week, both the archaeology and grout injection will be put on hold until we can meet with the archaeologists, historic building specialists, and representatives from the Maryland Historical Trust. The long-term results remain to be seen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Playing in the Dirt

As previously mentioned, the LSS has been hosting a team of archaeologists for the past several weeks. The digging has moved from the SE interior hallway (between the Beit Midrash and the mikvaot) to the SE exterior corner. Although no small artifacts have been found up to this point, the archaeologists have uncovered a substantial portion of the east wall of the building that stood on the property before the LSS was expanded in 1860. The surrounding area is much less disturbed than was the area inside, so we have a much better chance of finding something interesting.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cleaning the LSS

Last Friday, the LSS received a long-overdue cleaning - just in time to make its own fresh start for Rosh Hashanah. A team of volunteers, interns, and JMM staffers all pitched in to make the inside of the LSS as impressive as the outside. Earlier this year, Lacy LeBlanc worked with Matthew Mosca, historic paint and finishes expert, to determine the right cleaning plan to ensure the preservation of the historic finishes on the wood surfaces of the main sanctuary. After testing several different cleaning solutions* on the most sun-damaged pews, it was determined that a 2% solution of Murphy's Oil Soap and water was the proper choice for the LSS. Each pew was dry-wiped with a microfiber cloth, then lightly sprayed with the Murphy's Oil solution and wiped down by hand. The next steps in the cleaning process will be cleaning the pew cushions and mopping the floors - stay tuned for volunteer opportunities!

*Cleaning solutions tested are as follows:
1) 2% solution of Murphy's Oil Soap and distilled water
2) 2% solution of Simple Green and distilled water
3) 2% solution of Fantastik and distilled water
4) 2% solution of Vulpex and distilled water
5) 2% solution of Vulpex and mineral spirits